Biden and Brexit to appeal to overseas students?

The election of Joe Biden and Britain's new immigration system offer opportunities for universities in both the US and UK to embark on a fresh round of recruiting international students, according to a report on Monday.

Writing in University World News, Dr Rahul Choudaha, a higher education analyst based in Washington DC and director at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), says that while the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting global higher education systems and erecting new barriers to student mobility, new US and UK visa policies could result in the nations' institutions becoming more welcoming to overseas students.Dr Choudaha argues there have been three 'waves' of external events this century that have influenced the choices of globally mobile students.The first wave was the 9/11  attack of 2001 that resulted in US universities losing their appeal; the second was the financial crisis of 2008-9 that prompted Western universities to become more proactive in recruiting internationally; and the third was the 2016 Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump with his anti-immigrant rhetoric that created "many perceptual and real barriers for higher education institutions" in both countries to attract global talent.Now, Dr Choudaha says, the "confluence of Covid-19 uncertainty and political reset suggests we are at the beginning of the fourth wave of international mobility".He points out that a poll conducted by the GMAC prior to the US election showed that 24 per cent of students polled globally indicated they were more likely to pursue graduate management education in the US were Mr Biden to be elected president.In the UK, he adds, the government's new immigration system is creating post-Brexit pathways for education, including the new Graduate Route visa that will allow international students to remain in the UK and work at any skill level for two years after completing their studies."The visa and immigration policy changes in the US and the UK are likely to become more welcoming over time. This shift is a reversal from what triggered the third wave in 2016," he writes."Prospective international students may consider these destinations more favourably and, as a result, this may have a ripple effect, intensifying the competition for international student recruitment."In sum, Covid-19 uncertainty, coupled with political changes in the US and the UK, suggests the beginning of the fourth wave of international mobility. While Covid-19 is decelerating student mobility, new visa and immigration policies in the top two international student destinations may accelerate mobility towards the US and the UK."From prospective students’ perspective, this changing context could influence their preferences and journeys. In this context, it is even more critical for higher education institutions to monitor and track the shifting landscape and double-down on attracting and retaining global talent."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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